2007 Contest Results


First Place: “Portfolio of land-use coverage,” by Laura Oppenheimer, The Oregonian

This body of work, across a year’s time, really made me say, “Wow!” It’s deep and it’s broad. The quality of the data, analysis and anecdotal reporting is exemplary. There’s a richness to these stories and this entire body of work that is extraordinary. Laura Oppenheimer is to be congratulated for presenting such a complex topic in such an engaging, informative way.

Second place: “Truth Be Tolled” by Chuck Plunkett and Jeff Leib, The Denver Post

This three-part series is a local story with national impact. The exposure of the quid-pro-quo nature of toll-road consultants and developers should get everyone’s attention. The Post paints a clear picture of overly rosy projections that consistently fall short of expectations and follows that through by talking to participants in every link of the chain. Really good work.

Third place: “Farming on the Edge” by John Krist, Ventura County Star

This deep-dive work by John Krist and the Star vividly shows the challenges, opportunities and stakes involved in the agriculture business in Ventura County. Some of the angles were unexpected and some were familiar. But all were reported out thoroughly and captured with crisp, brisk writing that was rich in detail and context. Taking this on and sustaining it through the year could not have been easy. But it was well worth the effort.

Judged by Dave Wilson, managing editor/news for The Miami Herald. 37 entries.

First place: “The border within,” by Laura Frank, Burt Hubbard, Barry Gutierrez, Rocky Mountain News

The five-part series was well-written, well-packaged and well-researched. The paper not only found the numbers necessary, but put a human face on its examination of the fairness of the system that deals with illegal immigrants.

The paper’s year-long investigation found that many criminal immigrants often go free because of the lack of detention beds. The paper found many examples of immigrants who committed crimes that should have gotten them deported, but didn’t and they went on to commit worse crimes – ranging from sex assault to murder. Conversely, the paper found, half of those deported had no criminal record.

Second place: “Return to Guatemala,” by Esmeralda Bermudez, The Oregonian

A very compelling story. Very effective and crisp writing. Beautiful storytelling piece that flows easily and succeeds in staying away from stereotypes and generalizations.

Third place: “Illegal Labor Fix,” Brady McCombs and Tom Stauffer, The Arizona Daily Star

A very relevant and concrete topic. Good reporting and good presentation. Succeeds in localizing a national debate of illegal labor and immigration. Proper sourcing and better writing. Successful use of visuals.

Judged by staff members of Al Dia, Dallas, Texas: Gilbert Bailon, publisher and editor; Alfredo Carbajal, managing editor; Ana Barrera, deputy editor state desk; Julian Resendiz, deputy locale editor; Carolina Martinez, Librarian; Vanesa (cq) Salinas, education reporter; Lorena Flores, entertainment reporter. 55 entries.


First place: “Our Warmer World,” by staff of The Oregonian

In a year when many news organizations produced outstanding series and special reports on climate change, The Oregonian’s reporting stands out, both for its comprehensiveness in describing the range of impacts and for its focus on how Oregon is being or could be affected.

The paper’s occasional series throughout the year examined the glacial melt on Mount Hood, the state’s iconic peak, followed by a report on how warming sea temperatures worsen coastal storms. It broadened the picture by reporting how Oregon suffers from emissions across the Pacific in China, then gave readers information they could use by describing how every Oregonian contributes to – and can reduce his or her contribution to – the greenhouse gases changing the planet’s climate.

The paper fleshed out the issue even more with a feature on the climate record revealed in Oregon Caves and ended the year with a sobering report on how warming temperatures are transforming Oregon’s vaunted wine industry and contributing to destructive flooding and erosion. On a story so rich and so vast, it’s easy to get sidetracked and lose focus. In this case the writing was clear, the information compelling throughout.

Second place (tie): “Rivers Pushed to the Brink,” by Shaun McKinnon, The Arizona Republic, and

“Tempting Fate” by staff of The Sacramento Bee

These two papers performed vital public services for their communities by reporting on that resource that so defines the West: water – its scarcity, in Arizona’s case, and its destructive surges for the Sacramento area. The Republic’s seven-day series was a clarion call to action as it outlined how its major rivers are threatened by human activities, as growing demands for water to drink, farm and mine drain the natural systems that drew people there in the first place.

The Bee’s ongoing series, a continuation of reporting begun in 2005 on the heels of Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans, hammered home to readers the inadequacy of the area’s flood-control levees and the inability of the region’s leaders to provide the funding necessary to upgrade them. It also exposed the shoddiness of plans to evacuate the elderly and disabled in the event of a catastrophic flood.

Third Place: “Fire,” by Tom Knudson of The Sacramento Bee.

In an issue rife with contention, Knudson steers between the rhetorical poles to report how the costs of fighting wildfires keep soaring, undermining efforts to prevent or minimize damage from future fires and to restore burned-over forests. This reporting reminds that the region’s forests continue to suffer as policymakers and the public fail to come to grips with the problem.

Judged by Tim Wheeler, growth reporter for The Baltimore Sun and president of the Society of Environmental Journalists. 50 entries.


First Place: The Seattle Times for “Jewish Federation shootings”

At 4 p.m. on July 28, 2006, a Friday, a man breached the tight security at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, announced that he was a Muslim who hated Israel and opened fire with a semiautomatic handgun, killing one woman and wounding four others. The next day, readers of the Seattle Times had a full description of the tragic events, complete with eyewitness accounts, a detailed profile of the gunman and an explanation of how the incident raised concerns about religious tensions already fraying nerves around the globe.

This was a tour de force of deadline reporting, the work of a staff that rallied at a moment when its work week had been just about to end. The writing was concise, clean and fact-filled, and all of the components of the end product were so polished, it would be easy to guess that The Times had had days to prepare it.

Second Place: The San Francisco Chronicle for “The Kim Family Tragedy”

With a slowly unfolding drama like the plight of James Kim and his family, who were stranded on a snowed-in mountain road in Oregon last winter, it’s easy to overdo the coverage once there is a resolution. But the San Francisco Chronicle, led by the moving yet economical writing of Peter Fimrite, struck just the right notes the day after the discovery of Kim’s body ended all hope of a completely happy ending.

The Chronicle, like every other news organization covering the family’s plight, had plenty of time to prepare for all of the possible outcomes of the story. But it was what the paper did with the last-minute revelations that mattered. A simple but telling satellite image depicted the heartbreaking, circuitous route Kim took as he desperately sought to save his wife and children. Fimrite’s description of the same odyssey was compelling. And Jason Van Derbeken’s story about the helicopter pilot whose hunch saved the lives of Kim’s wife and children succeeded both in illuminating the heroics of the pilot and explaining, from that local expert’s vantage point, how the family got into such a bind in the first place. This was first-rate work.

Third Place: The Sacramento Bee for “Heat Wave”

Three elderly, poor men dying in a heat wave might be handled with a few paragraphs in many newspapers’ next-day weather stories. But when it happened in Sacramento last July, a team of Sacramento Bee reporters took the time to find out who the men were and how they and the friends they left behind suffered when the mercury soared.

This was not an all-hands-on-deck, cram-the-paper-with-sidebars effort. It was a single weather story with a heart that told readers what they needed to know about the weather while also illuminating the lives of real people who suffered because of it. There even was a fairly detailed accounting of local laws and how the city regulates the kind of “residential hotels” where the men died. To have fit all of that into one piece and to have woven it together so skillfully was some feat, second only to giving the term “weather story” a good name.

Judged by Tom McGinty, reporter for New York Newsday and former training editor for Investigative Reporters and Editors. 68 entries.


First place, “Nursing aide in rape case fired,” by Vanessa Ho, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Very strong original reporting on failures by both the state Health Department and several hospitals. The reporter’s relentless digging illuminates an astounding array of errors in judgment or accountability, dropped balls, and systemic fault lines.

Second place: “Governor in the jet-lease business,” by Andrew McIntosh, The Sacramento Bee

Fascinating look at Schwarzenegger’s jet purchase and lease-back investment. The reporter brings exceptionally clear writing to a complicated topic, and his reporting directly confronts Schwarzenegger’s assertion during the campaign that he had no investments that involved tax shelters.

The specifics of the Schwarzenegger deal appear to protect his company from financial risk on the investment, raising at a minimum the possibility that he has benefited from almost a decade of favorable treatment not envisioned by tax law.

Third place: (tie) “The secretive world of Sonics owners” by Jim Brunner, The Seattle Times

This may be a slightly unconventional choice, since there are no victims, no wrongdoing, no bureaucracy run amok. But the volume of original reporting is prodigious, in an arena not easily cracked. And in any major city, unearthing the names of this many movers and shakers, along with their fascinating networks, is bound to produce a big talker.

Third place: (tie): “Dealing in Death,” by Kara Platoni, East Bay Express.

Richly detailed story that does a very smooth job of blending the national and regulatory landscape with personal stories that give real animation to fairly familiar territory. Clear, confident writing.

Judged by Helen Donovan, executive editor of The Boston Globe. 84 entries.


First place: “Frank’s Fight,” by Mark Emmons, San Jose Mercury News

This was an extraordinarily intimate view of one man’s struggle to recover from brain injuries suffered in Iraq. The remarkable access the reporter was given allowed readers to see what we can barely imagine: the agonizing battle so many soldiers must carry on once they come home. Vivid detail, the keen insight into the painful, unseen side of war, and graceful writing make this a compelling package.

Second place (tie): “The Long Shadow of 9/11,” by A.D. Hopkins, Alan Maimon, Margaret Mille and Joan Whitely, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

At first, outsiders might laugh to think ‘Vegas is a terrorism target. This package of stories shows in concrete terms why the threat is very real and what officials are doing about it. I was particularly struck with the breadth of the reporting and the focus on the obvious shortcomings in anti-terrorism planning, particularly the secrecy that is keeping even local law enforcement people in the dark. The package also nicely captured the human dimensions of 9/11’s aftermath.

Second place (tie): “Teen Suicide – Utah’s Grim Reality,” by Lucinda Dillon Kinkead and Dennis Romboy, Deseret Morning News, Salt Lake City.

A heartbreaking subject is sensitively handled in this series. The reporters showed, in human terms, the stark contrast between the devastation of teen suicides and a seeming reluctance in the community, especially schools, to take the issue head-on. The “contagion” in Redrock Country was every parents’ nightmare and extremely well-told and researched.

Third place: “The Great Quake, 1906-2006,” by Carl Nolte, San Francisco Chronicle

Newspapers rarely tackle history in any depth. This entry is a wonderful exception, as it so ably puts the reader in the midst of a disaster that marked the dividing line between old and new San Francisco. Whether a life-long resident, a newcomer or a visitor, anyone who reads this will gain a new appreciation for the unique character and spirit of San Francisco. And Nolte’s warning to the modern city was sobering. Terrific writing and an impressive array of contemporaneous sources made this package hard to put down.

Judged by Jim Carroll, Washington Bureau Chief, Louisville Courier Journal. 59 entries.


First place: “Tainted Trials, Stolen Justice,” Fredric N. Tulsky, San Jose Mercury News

This series is extremely disturbing – and inspires anger in a government system that focuses on statistics instead of what’s right and wrong. The Mercury News team’s incredible job puts a fresh spin on “public service”. It tackles arrogance, laziness and pure malfeasance.

The writing is compelling, the reporting fascinating. It’s almost unfathomable that these miscarriages of justice could continue for such a long time. Congratulations for righting wrongs, restoring faith in justice and having the courage to do so. Excellent!

Second Place: “Sexually Violent Predators,” Sam Stanton and Mareva Brown, The Sacramento Bee

The Sacramento Bee’s three-part special report is top-notch watchdog journalism that should make readers proud to have the Bee as their newspaper.

The report offers a compelling look at sexual predators and the toughest-in-the-nation laws that are supposed to keep them away from the community – but don’t. This issue of public safety is alarming, and the Bee team’s painstaking efforts paid off. The sourcing is excellent: the voices of predators, victims and officials provide a comprehensive look at the all the “players” in the system.

Well done on a outstanding effort that explains, educates and is just plain very well done in every respect.

Third Place: “Diary of a Sex Slave,” Meredith May, San Francisco Chronicle

The Chronicle used its platform to inspire change, and it did so via human perspective, attention to detail and outstanding effort. The package is compelling in every respect.

This international effort is told via dramatic narrative that takes readers on a harrowing journey, yet the reporting never loses its perspective. The writing is outstanding, the detail rich, the impact dramatic. Congratulations on changing what needed to be changed.

Judged by Stuart Shinske, executive editor of the Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal. 48 entries.


First place: “License To Harm,” Michael J. Berens, Julia Sommerfeld and Carol Ostrom, The Seattle Times

An utterly compelling and somewhat disturbing look at doctors and failures in the system that is supposed to police them. Incredible in-depth work with real people and deep public service/investigative reporting. Reporters delved into records to build information bases that didn’t even exist. Stunning work.

Second place: “Your Courts, Their Secrets,” Ken Armstrong, Justin Mayo and Steve Miletich, The Seattle Times

This is the sort of investigative series that should be done by every newspaper. The newspaper reveals how judges sealed cases that should have been known to the public, creating a plethora of hidden problems that could not be addressed. Great work by the reporting staff in fighting to open cases that were questionably sealed.

Third place (tie) “The DA Who Ignored Ethics,” Christopher Collings, Merced (Calif.) Sun-Star

A very good read throughout. It’s almost entertaining to see this District Attorney get what’s been coming to him via strong investigative reporting. How did the man get away so much for so long?

Third place (tie) “High School Recruiting Scandal,” Christine Willmsen and Michael Ko, The Seattle Times

Another story that could be done on some scale by every newspaper in every community. While it may seem like a minor matter, the way local teams build their squads is an emotional issue in many communities. These reporters showed some courage and dug deep into the local sports culture, writing compelling stories that examined the processes as only a local newspaper could.

Judged by Rick Jensen, publisher, and Greg Bassett, executive editor, both of The Daily Times in Salisbury, Md. 43 entries.


First place: “Tough Rooster, Tender Tale,” Larry Bingham, The Oregonian

Judges commented that the story took readers to the tiny town of Scio to meet one tough rooster and showed how a fine writer can bring poetry to a rooster’s obit. It was a clever choice of subject, beautifully written, witty and light touch, not something you typically read. It brought the town to life. The details took you right there. It is a classic case of how to make a feature out of an item that could easily have been overlooked. Funny and insightful but not over written. Wonderful rhythm to the writing. The writer puts to excellent use his reporter’s eye for details and quotes that work.

Second place: “The Designer Jean Pool,” Lisa Heyamoto, The Sacramento Bee

Judges said that a story on designer jeans was one that as readers they might have glossed over but the quality of the writing drew them in and made them want to read every word. “I couldn’t put it down,” said one judge. Judges commented on the artful turns of phrase and use of quotes. Judges also praised the article for the quality of the reporting, noting that it offered a lot of useful information. The reporter raised what could have been just another fashion/consumer service article to another level through her eye for vivid detail and her ability to weave it all together.

Third place: “What the (Bleep)?” by Sam McManis, The Sacramento Bee

Judges agreed that it’s not easy to bring anything fresh to the table when reporting on the much publicized Howard Stern. But McManis deftly uses humor and anecdote to give readers a surprisingly insightful view of the longtime shock jock after the debut of his satellite radio show. Judges also noted that this probably was an assignment that involved a fast turnaround and yet was well crafted and a good read.

Judged by Linda Kramer, former deputy Washington bureau chief for People Magazine who teaches journalism at Georgetown University; Jane Podesta, former Washington correspondent for People Magazine; Lissa August, long-time member of Time Magazine’s Washington bureau; Melody Simmons, freelancer for People and National Public Radio and other outlets and formerly with the Baltimore Sun; Alexandra Fleming, freelancer for People and other publications and formerly with The Washington Times; Rose Ellen O’Connor, Washington freelance journalist for People and other publications and formerly with the Los Angeles Times and The Oregonian. 122 entries.


First place: “Wake for an Indian Warrior,” Jim Sheeler, Rocky Mountain News

One of the staples of daily journalism is the funeral story. It is both unavoidable and fraught with the peril of monotony and the maudlin, precisely due to its often predictably wrenching essence.

Jim Sheeler masterfully avoided the pitfalls with his two-part account of the nearly five days of honors, and year of mourning, for Cpl. Brett Lundstrom, 22, the first Oglala Sioux killed in the Iraq War. From the initial trek home to poverty-stricken Kyle, S.D, to final burial at Fort Logan National Cemetery on the Pine Ridge Reservation, he melds a family’s tragedy and a community’s sorrow into an engrossing window onto a Native American subculture.

It’s a tale operating on several levels, including that of a people who boast a high participation rate in our armed forces despite a history of being treated poorly by the same federal government. Sheeler exhibits a fine eye and ear for the specifics and the rhythms of Lundstrom’s return odyssey, be it the tributes heard on car radios, the Navy veteran hitchhiking 100 miles with a handmade quilt to be there and, finally, the brother, also serving in Iraq, who shares a beer at the grave with his fallen sibling.

His structure and pacing are first-rate and contribute to the epic quality of an effort which ends with the richly ironic disclosure that, “In the Lakota language, there is no word for ‘goodbye.'” Regardless, this is a classic tale of farewell.

Second Place: “What You Don’t Know About Deep Throat,” Joan Ryan, San Francisco Chronicle Magazine

Even the most obsessive chronicler of Watergate and Richard Nixon would concede the novelty of the revelations Ryan lays out in the distinctly private life of an American icon, Deep Throat, namely former FBI official Mark Felt.

Long after confirmation of his role as the most legendary unidentified source in journalism, Ryan unveils Mark Felt, father and patriarch of a family split apart by typical 1960s and 1970s cultural forces. In particular, there was the rocky relationship with his daughter, Joan, who became immersed in the same counterculture that despised an establishment personified by the FBI, rancorously ending contact with her parents.

It is ultimately a saga about Felt’s deep sense of loyalty both to the values of his government and to his own family, and how they led him to talk covertly to Bob Woodward and, decades later, to craft a reconciliation with the daughter.

Ryan’s profile is a testament to strong writing, a solid structure and superior pacing, a tale of pain and redemption. When the daughter needed to be saved, as she writes, the father was there. When his health deteriorated, she came to save him. The fact that Felt will be an important footnote in political history is really ancillary to this piece. If he was a union carpenter or a school bus driver, the dynamic Ryan lays out would be no less compelling. This was just a smart idea for a story.

Third Place: “The Next One: Reimagining 1906,” Matthew B. Stannard, San Francisco Chronicle

Speculating on the impact today of a repeat of the 1906 earthquake that destroyed San Francisco ran the risk of a fairly dry, if hyperbolic, recitation of expert musings. In the hands of Stannard, they became a truly engaging, almost cinematic, immersion into the complexity of a potential disaster in a modern metropolis. And at the heart is an admirable depth of reporting.

Nearly every key facet of life is touched as he makes the case for a catastrophic, if distinctly uneven, set of consequences to the physical and social structures of a large area. Rising water tables, breaking concrete, massive fires, falling high rises, destroyed hospitals, the awful smell of natural gas, chaos among first responders, the fears of children and the elderly are all there, with rich details on the horrific early hours of a disaster and the daunting subsequent challenge to rebuild a broken world.

It’s a primer on engineering and technology but a thoughtful foray into human emotions and how we might well react and, in the end, even impressively respond if the not-so-unthinkable does play out.

Judged by James C. Warren, managing editor/features for the Chicago Tribune. 162 entries.


First place: “The Gospel of Prosperity,” Eric Gorski, The Denver Post

A great example of watchdog journalism and follow the money story. Gorski’s piece shines a light on a morally suspect side of the Heritage Christian Center. Thorough reporting and extremely well-sourced.

Second place: “In the Dark,” Steve McMillan and David Olinger, The Denver Post

McMillan and Olinger managed to piece together a detailed and well-written tale without the cooperation from the story’s main subject – Excel Energy. Well done and fascinating. A compelling read. Who can forget the quote from the elderly consumer who felt the chill in her artificial joints.

Third place: “What do they know about you?” Elise Ackerman, San Jose Mercury News

With identity theft concerns growing daily, Ackerman provides an illuminating – and sometimes chilling – look into some surprising ways that the public’s privacy could be compromised by its most trusted Internet portals. Fascinating read for all of us who can’t understand the technology we use every day.

Judged by Eileen Ambrose, Baltimore Sun personal-finance columnist, plus Sun business reporters Allison Connolly, Paul Adams, Andrea Walker, Hanah Cho and Tricia Bishop. 90 entries.


First place: “D-Back Admits Steroid Use,” Craig Harris, Joseph A. Reaves and Nick Piecoro, The Arizona Republic

During a time of great cynicism and a lack of accountability, the Republic’s breaking of the IRS raid of Arizona pitcher Jason Grimsley was an excellent reminder of our mission as journalists, even if it appears that the public does not seem at first to care.

The Grimsley story was proof that steroid use was not merely confined to BALCO and the San Francisco Bay area and was one of the first stories to reveal the diverse law enforcement agencies that are involved in the steroid probe.

In 2007, the new steroid allegations surrounding baseball player Gary Matthews, Jr. stem from an FBI raid of the Florida “wellness clinic” first revealed in the documents detailing the Grimsley raid, documents first uncovered in 2006 by the Republic in this story.

It is this type of good reporting, buttressed by federal documents, that continue to dissolve the hollow denials of drug use by professional athletes and erode their ability to mislead the public.

Second place: “Round Two,” Bill Briggs, The Denver Post

There were many stories in this year’s entries about the tragic price of playing sports – so many, in fact that was difficult to differentiate one tragedy over another. What was different about Bill Briggs’ story of the two men bonded by a sparring accident nearly two and a half decades ago was that these men were not professional athletes at all, yet were drawn for different reasons to the most vicious of all sports and paid an eternal price for it.

Even more evocative in the story was how in the face of the real-life consequences – one of the men is brain-damaged, the other sobered by the violence once so attractive – the macho impulses that are such a part of the sporting culture diminished, replaced by something more human, and much more valuable than the adrenaline rush of hurting another person or avenging perceived inadequacies.

In the writing was a story of a man softening, realizing that throwing a punch may not be so much fun, after all.

Third place: “Athlete leaves a legacy of sadness,” Matt James, The Fresno Bee

As much as I was taken by the Denver Post second-place entry for its humanity, the story of Brian Martin by the Fresno Bee was equally moving for forcing a family to confront the myths and reality of football, a sport they loved, through the lens of the addiction and ultimate death of a loved one.

The brilliance of the story came less from what was said about Martin, but from the questions about sport and its meanings his life symbolized. The poignancy of the story was in how even in the aftermath of a tragic death the powerful tenets of the football culture are hard, if not impossible to reject completely, even if the family believes that it was football that killed their child. Doing so might force them to revisit their own complicity, inflation of a seductive but perilous culture.

These are the types of stories I like, where larger concepts that aren’t implicitly discussed still permeate the writing.

Judged by Howard Bryant, sports writer, The Washington Post. 75 entries.


First place: Joel Connelly, Seattle Post-Intelligenger

Joel Connelly’s trio of columns on dangers to the environment of the most remote regions of the Pacific Northwest employ one of the oldest tricks in the book: solid reporting. From his on-the-spot repots in Iskut, a First Nations region of Canada where native subsistence hunters face the threat of multinational developers, to his desk in Seattle, where he wages war with smug politicians and even colleagues in other newsrooms, Connelly stands athwart the demands of the moment and protects the future. His writing is muscular, sparse, and drives a narrative that holds the reader and persuades with fact, history and a sense of obligation to the earth. The judge can only say he was dazzled by this man’s career-long devotion to a region few of us know, and need to know better, through the eyes of a man who refuses to see a nation’s last frontier paved, mined, scraped and abandoned. It is obvious from his store house of knowledge that Connelly has been working this beat for some time. I suspect there are countless acres yet intact because the Seattle Post-Intelligencer gave this man the support – and length of years on the job – to see life, history, culture and nature where the nearsighted espy dollar signs.

Second Place: John Dougherty, Phoenix New Times

One reading of his column proves a view of long standing by Arizona’s more mainstream editors: John Dougherty is a goddamn troublemaker. And the makers of trouble are usually the men and women filled with a finely tuned sense of righteous indignation. He brought his ire along with him on three columns, detailing the impending assault on an Arizona park, the astonishing neglect of a Native American tribe by two feuding agencies that are supposed to provide electricity, and a pernicious fiction tossed into the public domain by a convicted scam artist working in league with two immigrant-bashing groups. Thoroughly researched and persuasively written, Dougherty’s columns are great answers to a question as old as Plato: “Who shall guard the guardians?” In Arizona, from all indications, it’s John Dougherty of the Phoenix New Times.

Third Place: Nikki Finke, LA Weekly

Nikki Finke of LA Weekly works a beat utterly foreign to the judge and brings home the back story so compellingly, writing so authoritatively, that I’m surprised some studio head hasn’t had her knocked off. If you want to keep a secret in Hollywood, keep it far from this woman. Her painstakingly constructed account of a smear effort against the movie “Blood Diamond” by the diamond cartel gives readers a clear window into the machinations of big-money public relations. Her account of Jim Carrey dumping his agent reads like a TV script. In fact, she acknowledges such and proves the point. There is dish and then there is deep dish. Nikki Finke serves up the latter.

Judged by Dennis Roddy, columnist, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 83 entries.


First place: Lance Dickie, The Seattle Times

Dickie’s series of columns are a great example of pieces where a writer educates readers while also offering them sharp images of a land they likely have not visited; in this case Korea.

Dickie is adept at providing the historical context readers need, without delving into textbook-style recounts of a foreign land. The writing is sharp and nicely weaves opinion into passages that also show Dickie clearly use his time in Korea well, gauging the impressions of average people, as well as leaders.

That the series of columns is about a country not often addressed by columnists is an added bonus to the work.

Second place: Wine columns by Mike Dunne, The Sacramento Bee

Clearly written, in a style that is inviting yet deeply explanatory, Dunne understands his subject area, yet also realizes that readers may not. His style is very straight forward, a blessing in a day when some columnists think the more phrases the better.

He brings a newsy edge to his writing, placing his comments into a perspective that lets readers know why they should care about his opinions.

Third place: Erin Neff, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Neff doesn’t dance around her opinions. She begins the name-calling early in her columns, but it doesn’t come across as especially mean-spirited, a real talent when words like political hacks and flunkies are used.

The main reason is the pieces also give much context, providing background for the terms chosen. Neff also brings a knowledge of history into her pieces, giving the reader a broader understanding of the issue and therefore, her stance. She also reports well, a good thing to find in columns these days when so many writers simply pontificate.

Judged by Mary Sanchez, columnist, Kansas City Star. 89 entries.


First place: Rob Mackay, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Rob’s headlines have a crispness that is inviting to readers, as well as being informative. His heds have both clarity, as well as a creative style.

His headline on the article about Airbus’ unusual stand-up seats is a good example of Rob’s skill. Nearly a half dozen other headlines writers in this contest took a crack at the hed for this article, but none equaled Rob’s well crafted approach in a very difficult word count: “Will you stand for less room on flights?”

He resists the temptation that confronts headline writers everywhere: Do I go for the cheap play on words? Rob doesn’t, but his headlines certainly are not dull. A reporter at his newspaper surely is grateful to have Rob working on the headline on his or her article.

Second place: Chris West, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Those headline writers who seem incapable of crafting a headline without “stealing” a reporter’s lede should examine Chris’ work to see how it can be done – and be done well.

You won’t find any lede stealing there. Chris’ headlines have a welcome freshness to them. Yet, the headlines go right to the heart of the stories – such as a “This could be the start of something big” (on a story about the “granddaddy” of all tyrannosaurs), and his “Rainfall record taken by storm” (on the wettest month in local history).

Third place: Michael Kleckner, The Oregonian

Like all skillful headline writers, Michael makes the best of the word count he is given by the page designers.

His headline on the jail cell communication network reached out and grabbed busy readers with an inviting, clever use of the “potty mouths (and ears)” phrasing.

The more difficult word count on the story about the election aftermath was well executed, too: “Oregon’s so blue, GOP isn’t sure what to do”. His hed on the feature piece about the stressful year-end holidays captured the hectic theme of the story. And the difficult count on the profile of professional oddball “Dingo Dizmal” was a well crafted, yet playful, “This clown flies high freak flag high”.

Judged by Randy Evans, assistant managing editor, Des Moines Register. 76 entries.

First place: “Mitchell over the bully,” Dan Nowicki, The Arizona Republic.

Unambiguous, forceful, audacious, reasonable, and most of all persuasive. This editorial has it all. It’s no wonder the candidate the editorial describes as a bully lost the election. This is the kind of writing that inspires journalists to become editorial writers.

Second place: “Raise hope instead of fence,” Sam Negri, The Arizona Daily Star.

The use of the second-person voice is very effective. It makes it clear to the reader that the ordinary person plays a major role in public policy. A good job.

Third place: “Clean this disgusting mess – now,” Robert Leger, The Arizona Republic.

Short, forceful and empowering. The reader knows as soon as he or she reads it that by virtue of the editorial being in the paper that the problem is solved, if only because a phone number was included.

Judged by Jarvis DeBerry, editorial writer, New Orleans Times-Picayune. 58 entries.


First place: “Lost,” George Kochaniec Jr., Rocky Mountain News

The photo shows the elation and the exhaustion on the faces of four hikers who got lost in the Rocky Mountains and the family members who accompanied them on their trek out of the mountains east of Aspen. The four – an adult and three children – had to spend an overnight in freezing temperatures.

The judges said: A joyous and emotional moment, perfectly captured by the photographer. And a great family picture to boot.

Second Place: “Escort,” Chris Schneider, Rocky Mountain News

The photo shows a Navy corpsman alone on a tarmac after the casket carrying the body of one of his colleagues has been transferred to another plane. The corpsman’s face is twisted in grief as he tries to hold back tears; in the background is the tip of an airplane wing.

The judges said: The simplicity of this picture, both powerfully and sadly, captures the complex emotions of a soldier who grieves for his friend.

Third Place: “Protests,” Lindsay Miller, The Arizona Daily Star.

The photo captures the swirl of activity as police move in to break up a protest in downtown Tucson, Arizona. The dark colors of the police uniforms contrast with the white worn by two of the protestors. An action-packed photo. The judges said: The utter chaos of a split second in time makes for a terrifically powerful image.

Judged by Lonnie Schlein, picture editor, Travel and Escapes sections, The New York Times, and Cathy Mather, a freelance picture editor who is consulting at The Times. 75 entries.

First place: “A mother’s anguish,” Tiffany Brown, Las Vegas Sun

The photo shows a mother collapsed in exhaustion on her hotel bed after searching fruitlessly for her missing daughter in Las Vegas.

“A moment from a larger story that tells much,” the judge said. He noted the shoes and suitcase neatly arranged in the hotel room. The mother’s body language and expression of utter exhaustion and despair carry the photo.”

Second place: “Wheelchair flying,” Renee Byer, The Sacramento Bee

The photo captures the glee on the face of a young boy suffering from cancer as his barefoot mother wheels him down a hospital hallway to distract him from an upcoming procedure. The boy’s uplifted fingers, in the victory salute, show the abandon he is feeling even as he faces a daunting medical operation.

“An incredibly close second,” the judge observed. “Once again, a moment from a larger story – one that really doesn’t need a caption. Hope, joy and dread all in the same image.”

Third place: “Doggy daycare,” Dan DeLong, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The interplay of light and shadow highlight this photo, full of dogs from a doggie day-care business. In the upper right of the photo, an employee brushes a dog’s coat as other pooches lounge about or trot around.

“A single found moment, full of wonderful light, detail and whimsical humor,” the judge wrote. “The different shapes in different planes give the eye many places to settle.”

Judged by Gary O’Brien, picture Editor/photographer, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer. 134 entries.

First place: “Punch,” Kelly Presnell, The Arizona Daily Star

A photo of a boxer landing a jab to the jaw of an opponent during a match at a Tucson-area casino grabbed first place in what judges said was a highly competitive category.

“It is very sharp, has frozen a great deal of flying water and sweat in mid-air due to the high shutter-speed selected, has excellent cropping, good internal motion and great composition,” the judges said.

They praised the photographer for capturing an “absolute peak moment” in boxing, a sport that is notoriously hard to photograph.

Second place: “Sled dogs,” Chris Detrick, Salt Lake Tribune

Four parallel lines of mushers behind their strings of sled dogs create a strong horizontal, criss-crossing element in this arresting photo.

“Great job of seeing!” the judges enthused about this wintertime photo.

“It has beautiful lines, the eye moves around finding newness everywhere it lands, and the image simply feels otherworldly,” the judges said. “It is a frame that obviously required prior planning in terms of the photographer’s position in relation to the subject. It uses the right lens, perfect exposure, and a cool moment.”

Third place (tie): “Mack upended,” Dan DeLong, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Caught in mid-tumble, this shot of a Seattle Seahawks player upended over a defender drew kudos from the judges for being snapped at exactly the right time.

“This peak-action football image has it all: Great composition, cropping, it’s tight, the depth of field is whacked so the background isn’t fighting with the action, and itâ⒬˜s captured early in the play,” the judges wrote.

“Another benefit is the face of No. 33 (the Seahawks player), the ball is there, and you can even see his hand looking for a landing spot under the defender. This frame reads real fast and would make any sports editor proud to display it over the fold on the section front.”

Third place (tie): “Win,” Jason Redmond, Ventura County Star

High-school football players and their coach erupt in glee as their team clinches the title in a championship game.

“The reaction is killer in this frame because you have not just one or two people’s faces showing jubilation, but four,” the judges said.

“It’s a great winning moment in football, period. Youâ⒬˜ve got the coach and three players about to burst from excitement.”

Judged by Patrick Murphy-Racey, freelance photographer, Powell, Tenn; Paul Efird, assistant director of photography, The Knoxville News-Sentinel; and Adam Brimer, freelance. 80 entries.

First place: “A Landmark renovation,” Fred Matamoros, Tacoma News Tribune

The spacing in this graphic is superb. Looking at the page, one doesn’t feel compelled to read every printed word, but can instead discern the necessary information from the artwork itself. The whole presentation is inviting. It allows the reader’s eyes to roam and pick up information across the page and in whatever order the reader would like.

Second place: “How it should work,” Doug Griswold, San Jose Mercury News

Nice balance of white space, text and graphics. Dividing the page into thirds is visually effective. The use of mug shots is a nice counterweight to the art above. The information is clearly and succinctly presented.

Third place: “$3.22 per gallon, 424 gallons per person: How we use gasoline,” Michelle Lee McMullen, The Seattle Times

I loved the incorporation of the steering wheel and dash board into the graphic. That was very nicely done. Each graph on the page is nicely presented.

Judged by Jarvis DeBerry, editorial writer, New Orleans Times-Picayune. 60 entries.


First place: “Dog blog,” Andrew Saeger, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

This is one is fun, lively, conceptually appropriate to the story and technically excellent. It is always difficult to integrate “parts” into one solid illustration, but this piece succeeds. You can hear the dogs and cats feverishly typing, plus they’re just darn cute.

The media was a fine choice and the mark of the artist is in the paint, which makes it so fun and drives the illustration home. Great job.

Second place: “Mingle Hell,” Andrew Saeger, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

A personal favorite, this one caught my eye and stuck with me as I looked through the other entries. One look at this illustration and the story is immediately apparent. You can feel the tension among the minglers and even the bartender is stressed! The best part of the illustration is that it puts into form a universal phenomenom: Come on, who hasn’t felt mingle hell before?

Third place: “Trickle Down,” Derrik Quenzer, The Oregonian

It’s difficult to make an infographic feel approachable and warm and this illustration does it.

The woodcut technique and the colors make it something special, and something that will catch readers’ eyes more than a clinical-looking traditional infographic. It also communicates the necessary information quickly and effectively.

Judged by Kathy Lu, features editor; Rob Lunsford, graphics director; Chris OBrion, news graphic artist; and Grant Jedlinsky, news graphic artist, all of The Roanoke Times. 100 entries.


First place: Don Asmussen, “Bad Reporter” strip, San Francisco Chronicle

His work doesn’t look like a traditional editorial editorial cartoon. He uses Photoshop more than he draws. But he achieves a traditional cartoon purpose by mocking conventional wisdom with a bright wit and an offbeat bite.

His cartoons were fresh and funny with a great sense of the absurd and easily deserving of first place.

Second place: Dave Horsey, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

His “Brief History of Religion” showed excellent draftsmanship, It was in poor taste, politically incorrect, insulting,and funny as hell. In short, it was everything a great cartoon should be.

I also thought Horsey did a great job transporting the reader to his vantage point in “If the Internet were a Neighborhood.” Another excellent composition with sordid virtual reality made flesh.

Third place: Steve Benson, The Arizona Republic

His work was consistently strong and hard hitting. His images bites in entries such as “The Box Stops Here” or “The Great Allah will Protect Us.”

Judged by Chip Bok, cartoonist, Akron Beacon-Journal. 29 entries.


First place: “1906 Quake: Our Defining Moment,” Staff, The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, Calif.

Beautifully designed, excellent balance of images, text and other elements. The designer’s work made for an ease of reading and navigation. The doubletruck infographic contained an impressive amount of information, skillfully assembled on the pages. Superb work overall.

Second place: “Plasma Dreams,” Boo Davis, The Seattle Times

This tells a business story through graphic-novel-style illustration.

This represents a direction we should be going in. Many other entries were excellent examples of the design techniques we know, this one introduces a device we don’t often use. The graphic-novel approach invited a reader who might not normally be engaged in this topic. Innovative and refreshing.

Third place (tie): “America’s Immigration Dilemma,” Staff, The Seattle Times.

This section focusing on immigration is well organized, flows well, organizes many elements effectively, and offers many points that can draw the reader in. Posed many challenges to the designer, which were met very effectively.

Third place (tie): “Tainted trials,” Staff, San Jose Mercury News

This section looks at the trial process and what can go wrong with it.

A big, complicated issue and a big undertaking was carried out in a way that helped the reader understand the information. Clear and easy to follow. The approach suited the topic (dignified, not cheesy). A good variety page to page, many points of interest.

Judged by Diane Bacha, executive editor/specialty publications, Lonnie Turner, features design editor, and Zeina Makky, news designer, all of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and Kathy Bryja, design editor, and Christopher Krueger, designer, both of MKE weekly. 117 entries.


First place: “Sealing Our Borders,” Staff, The Arizona Daily Star

This project stood apart. It is a great piece of enterprise reporting, a compelling and convincing investigation of a single critical question. More importantly, it is terrific online reporting.

The integrated use of multiple strengths of the medium is what sets this package on a level above the others. Video, interactive maps, audio, slideshows and other online storytelling tools are not presented as after-the-fact add-ons. Rather, they play a central role in telling the larger story.

The package pulls the reader in, allowing for a variety of non-linear reading patterns and rewarding each choice. What could have made it better? While the live chats were a nice touch, this project absolutely cries out for a way for readers to comment on the information presented.

Second place: “License to Harm,” Michael J. Berens, Julia Sommerfeld, Carol M. Ostrom, Paige Bills, Heidi Brown and Matt Pressnall, The Seattle Times

Database-driven reporting has lost some of its luster as video, audio, social networking and other online storytelling tools have been embraced at papers across the country. But as this package shows, it has lost none of its power.

The misconduct database is the heart and soul of this series. It provides the data that drives the stories and, just as importantly, it exposes that data to the audience in a simple, intuitive and useful way.

This is database reporting as it should be done in our medium. What could have made it better? Multimedia reporting that allowed the intensely personal stories behind the data to live in the voices of those involved.

Third place: “John Muir Trail,” Jennifer Ward, The Fresno Bee

Think blogs aren’t a reporting tool? This ambitious, entertaining and engaging project shows otherwise.

The premise is simple enough – allow three reporters hiking the John Muir Trail to record their experiences in a shared blog. The result is wonderful. The use of a blog provides the narrative with a degree of freedom – and an expectation to interact – we rarely give ourselves in more traditional article forms. What could have made it better? Integration of the slide shows, videos and photos into the blog itself.

Judged by Will Tacy, editor of StarTribune.com, Minneapolis. 16 entries.


First place: “Frank Sandoval: A Survival Story,” Pauline Lubens, Mark Emmons, Richard Koci Hernandez and Geri Migileicz, San Jose Mercury News

At its finest, multimedia storytelling should capture the emotional edge and depth of a story. This story does exactly that, and more. By allowing the video camera to be our eyes and ears as Frank Sandoval and his family face each challenge on his long struggle to recover, the reporters place us at the center of this deeply personal story.

Second place: “More than Just a Sport,” Albert Corona, Silvia Flores and Martha Sarabia, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.

Great multimedia stories can happen anywhere, can come from any coverage area. This package introduces the audience to a small and special world, and does so in a manner that is endlessly inviting and intriguing. Each video, each slideshow pulls the user deeper into the culture, history and intricacies of Charreria; the result is a fascinating and uniquely satisfying online voyage.

Third place (three-way tie):

“A Sister’s Gift,” Sonya Doctorian and Ken Harper, Rocky Mountain News

“From Mexico to California,” Tom Kisken, Ventura County Star

“Lost Treasures,” Jeff Nachtigal, The Bakersfield Californian

These three entries, while different, all shared one thing in common: They captured a larger story by allowing people to tell their own, personal stories. Whether that story is the wrenchingly personal decision to donate a kidney to an ill brother, the multi-layered narrative of immigrants studying to pass the citizenship exam or a nostalgic shared look at a city’s lost landmarks and the memories that remain, these entries all take the audience to a new place.

Judged by Will Tacy, editor of StarTribune.com, Minneapolis. 44 entries.